Getting Your Hands Dirty in NRES

Getting Your Hands Dirty in NRES

Feb 21
Manuel Colón, NRES Student Recruitment Coordinator

Any student (or person really) who is currently on a job search can attest to the increasingly prevalent paradox of entry-level job positions requiring prior work experience.  It’s the murky career development waters that fresh graduates, who want to get work experience but can’t because they don’t have prior work experience, have to navigate in this day and age. It confuses me to the point that just re-reading that last sentence makes my head hurt.

Thankfully for students in the College of ACES, that’s not too much of a challenge.  As an applied science College, many of our students are getting those hands-on, active learning experiences in their regularly scheduled class loads already. Specifically, in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences each student is required to take two “NRES 285 – Field Experience” courses to complete their graduate requirements. Two to three 285 courses are taught every semester and generally align with the four concentrations within our major: Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Global Change and Landscape Dynamics, Human Dimensions of the Environment, and Resource Conservation and Restoration Ecology.

These field experience classes provide an opportunity for our students to take their academic learning experience into real world application. It moves the learning that is taking place at college beyond the four walls of a classroom. This semester alone, the Department is offering seven different field experience courses. But I want to highlight two, especially, to demonstrate the range of opportunities that these courses offer.

One is a Chainsaw Safety and Directional Felling Techniques course that provides students with instruction and hands-on training specific to chainsaw safety, saw maintenance, directional felling, limbing, and bucking. The class will meet at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in Simpson, IL during spring break, and upon successful completion will provide chainsaw operation certification. Another is an Environmental Education Field Experience course where students run a weekly after school environmental club at Booker T. Washington elementary school, here in Champaign. The course introduces students to the thinking processes required for developing high quality environmental education activities and provides practice designing and implementing them. 

As an avid study abroad promoter, it would be remiss of me to not mention that certain programs can also provide these field experiences as well. This summer, a study abroad program to Tanzania, which is a Wildlife Management program, will count as NRES 285 credit. Another course that will focus on the Biodiversity, Agriculture, and Culture of Taiwan will also provide both field and study aboard experience of interested students.

At the rate of babbling on too long, what I’m essentially trying to get at is this:  in the College of ACES there are many great opportunities that students are able to take advantage of that provide those real world work experiences that future employers are going to be looking for. It could be something local here on campus like traditional internships or research assistants or on the other side of the globe. Either way, the College of ACES can take you.